Rights abuses, Western powers fuelled rise of Islamic militants: HRW

Rights abuses, Western powers fuelled rise of Islamic militants: HRW
Displaced Iraqis from the Yazidi community, who fled violence between Islamic State (IS) group jihadists and Peshmerga fighters in the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar, wait for bread to bake at Dawodiya camp for internally displaced people in the Kurdish city of Dohuk, in Iraq's northern autonomous Kurdistan region, on January 14, 2015.

WASHINGTON - Governments increasingly view human rights as "a luxury" they can ill afford, Human Rights Watch said Thursday, warning that abuses fuel crises in world trouble spots like Syria and Ukraine.

Western powers, including the United States, are far from blameless and in some cases their wrongdoing has fed the very climate in which serial rights abusers like Islamic State jihadists thrive.

"Human rights violations played a major role in spawning or aggravating most of today's crises," argued Kenneth Roth, director of the US-based watchdog, as HRW unveiled its annual report.

Even as it seems that "the world is unravelling," he warned, many governments "appear to have concluded that today's serious security threats must take precedence over human rights."

"In this difficult moment, they seem to argue, human rights must be put on the back burner, a luxury for less trying times," Roth said, introducing the 660-page HRW World Report 2015.

Such a calculation is false, Roth insisted.

Instead, he argued that "human rights are an essential compass for political action" and shelving them is "not only wrong, but also shortsighted and counterproductive."

From Iraq to Syria, Egypt, Nigeria and Ukraine "protecting human rights and enabling people to have a say in how their governments address the crises will be key to their resolution."

The emergence of the Islamic State group was in part fuelled by the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq.

This led to a security vacuum and well-documented abuses in Abu Ghraib prison and the US military jail at Guantanamo Bay.

Later the United States and Britain "largely shut their eyes" to the sectarian policies of Shiite prime minister Nuri al-Maliki and his persecution of the Sunni minority, and even continued to ply his government with arms.

In Syria, the US cobbled together a 60-strong coalition to combat the IS jihadists, but no nations have stepped up pressure on Syrian President Bashar al- Assad "to stop the slaughter of civilians."

"This selective concern has been a gift to ISIS recruiters, who portray themselves as the only ones willing and able to stand up to Assad's atrocities," said Roth.

This same selectivity has been shown in Egypt, where the global response to "unprecedented repression" by general-turned-president, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, has been "shamefully inadequate."

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